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Biden Injects Historic Fresno Train Depot With $20M to Prep for High-Speed Rail
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By Edward Smith
Published 10 months ago on
June 28, 2023

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Infrastructure is downtown Fresno’s word of the week as the former Southern Pacific Depot building will receive $20 million from the Biden Administration for renovations and electric vehicle charging stations in preparation for the arrival of high-speed rail.

“The restoration of the nationally registered historic passenger rail depot includes building seismic and accessibility upgrades, as well as early site activation efforts surrounding the train depot and the adjacent Chinatown historic district,” the California High-Speed Rail Authority said in a news release Wednesday.

“These improvements will provide community areas and activate both sides of the station site. This work is a critical first step to restore the historic train depot in anticipation of the future Fresno Station and high-speed rail passenger service on the Merced to Bakersfield segment by the end of the decade.”

The amount comes as part of $121.4 million to upgrade infrastructure throughout California.

“Using the funds in President Biden’s infrastructure law, we are helping communities in every state across the country realize their visions for new infrastructure projects,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg in a news release.

“This round of RAISE grants is helping create a new generation of good-paying jobs in rural and urban communities alike, with projects whose benefits will include improving safety, fighting climate change, advancing equity, strengthening our supply chain, and more.”

Sen. Padilla, Mayor Dyer Outline What the Funding Will Accomplish

“This funding is an important federal investment in California’s pioneering high-speed rail project,” U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla said at a Wednesday morning news conference.

“Rebuilding the passenger rail depot in the heart of Fresno will create jobs today, and pave the way for clean, fast transportation that connects the Central Valley and the entire state. The rail depot project not only prepares Fresno for high-speed rail, it will provide solar power and electric vehicle charging infrastructure needed to modernize additional modes of transportation. A future with cleaner air and lower emissions is possible — but only if we keep investing in projects like this one.”

Said Mayor Jerry Dyer: “These investments will not only complement the nation’s first high-speed rail station but help support housing and businesses in Chinatown and the downtown core.”

An illustration of the future historic depot plaza when it’s completed in downtown Fresno. (CHSRA)

A Closer Look at Project Improvements

The restored depot’s amenities will include:

•    Transit and vehicle electric charging in a resilience hub;
•    Solar power generation capacity;
•    Bicycle and scooter parking;
•    Restored tree canopy and new shade structures;
•    Resilient and improved stormwater management;
•    Park and plaza space for public activities;
•    Lease space opportunities; and
•    Improved fencing and perimeter security.

On the Heels of $250 Million in State Funding for Downtown

Fresno is also receiving $250 million over three years for infrastructure upgrades essential to a downtown revitalization plan that includes more housing and business and green space. The funding was approved in the 2023-24 California budget.

“I’m thrilled to see our State removing obstacles to investment in Chinatown and Downtown,” said Morgan Doizaki, owner of Central Fish Company and Chinatown Fresno Foundation Board member on Wendesday. “Chinatown has always welcomed newcomers, and ours is one of many businesses that will benefit from having more potential customers nearby.”

Added Elliott Balch, CEO of the Downtown Fresno Partnership: “Just think: The $20 million Fulton Street project created a measurable economic boost for small businesses and our community. “Now an order-of-magnitude greater investment is going to make more housing possible. Thanks to Governor (Gavin Newsom) and the Legislature, thousands of Valley residents will be calling our downtown community home.”

History of the Depot

In 1872, the Fresno Station was built by Central Pacific Railroad and it was from there that growth in the city began, according to HistoricFresno.org. In 1889, Central Pacific became Southern Pacific and a new building was constructed.

The depot closed in 1971 and is one of only two Queen Anne-influenced stations in California.

Location of Fresno’s historic downtown train depot, a future plaza, and the future high-speed rail station. High-speed rail is expected to begin operations in the Valley by 2030. (GV Wire/Paul Marshall)

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Edward Smith,
Multimedia Journalist
Edward Smith began reporting for GV Wire in May 2023. His reporting career began at Fresno City College, graduating with an associate degree in journalism. After leaving school he spent the next six years with The Business Journal, doing research for the publication as well as covering the restaurant industry. Soon after, he took on real estate and agriculture beats, winning multiple awards at the local, state and national level. You can contact Edward at 559-440-8372 or at Edward.Smith@gvwire.com.

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